My favourite Places - Tonbridge
19 September 2023
She founded Fiona Penny Bespoke Home Finders 16 years ago and knows both the housing industry and this area of the country inside out. So we asked property guru Fiona Penny to spill the beans on her favourite places in Tonbridge and the surrounding area. Notepads at the ready!
On the outskirts of Tonbridge sits this 64-hectare country park and Nature Reserve. The beautiful countryside location boasts two lakes, a river (the River Medway in fact) running through it, a rustic children’s play area and really good local outdoor café. Great for dog walking, jogging, fishing and enjoying the wildlife.
BEST FOR CULTURE
E M Forster Theatre at Tonbridge School
This successful little theatre attracts both talent from the area, professional touring productions and public speakers alike – and is for hire by the local community. We love the variety and quality of productions on offer here and it is a great opportunity to support local (with tickets at a fraction of the price you’d pay in the West End!). With a theatre, studio and bar area and even a library garden (an outdoor seated theatre) for recitals and open air performances.
BEST FOR ART
All Saints’ Church, Tudeley
At first glance it might seem like an unassuming church but it is the only church in the world to have all 12 of its stained glass windows designed by the Russian artist Marc Chagall. He was commissioned in 1963 to make one window as a memorial to Sarah d’Avigdor-Goldsmid, who tragically died at just 21 years of age in a sailing accident. Originally reluctant, when he arrived for the installation in 1967 he said “It’s magnificent. I will do them all.”
BEST DAY OUT
Tonbridge Swimming Pool & Park
This town boasts some excellent sports facilities including Tonbridge Swimming Pool. A public indoor AND outdoor swimming pool, set within the grounds of Tonbridge Park, with its sports grounds, children’s play area, tennis courts, crazy golf and now brand new padel courts too. All right next door to Tonbridge Castle – a stunning medieval motte-and-bailey castle sat in the heart of the town.
An award winning artisan bakery and cosy café, where everything is baked from scratch in it’s open plan bakery by founder and head baker, Clare Barton. Sourdough breads, pastries and cakes are all a speciality. And (one for the fact fans) all set in Tonbridge’s 2nd oldest building apparently!
BEST COFFEE HOUSE
This is a modern, light and spacious independent coffee house, centrally located in the high street, with everything made on site; from salads, soups, artisan breads, cakes and pastries – to their award winning Toastie (mozzarella, Emmental and mature cheddar on sourdough, since you’re asking!)
You’ll find it smack bang on the high street, you can walk to the train station easily, which is definitely a good thing since they have one of the largest ranges of craft beers in the South East! Over 130 bottled and draft beers on tap, alongside brilliant wines, spirits, cheese and charcuterie boards. A cosy and vibrant pub-cum-bar-cum-café.
Ye Olde Kentish pub, traditionally a toll house for the town. Tile hung and dating back to the 15th Century, you can choose their cosy, beamed interiors or their recently built, spacious outdoor area – made super cosy with screens, hanging patio heaters and blankets. Wood fired pizzas, mid-week steak nights and weekend breakfasts are all served alongside more traditional pub grub.
BEST TAKE AWAY
There’s lots of good food options along the high street, including a decent choice of take aways like Turkish restaurants Havet and Hattusa. Not forgetting, Avebury Fish Bar, a local institution, that’s been serving up great quality cod and chips for what seems like forever (actually 35 years!). Every good community needs a decent chippy – and this is a popular option.
You are really spoilt for choice in this area, that’s for sure. If it’s Prep/Primary age you’re after then you’ll find St Margaret Clitherow Catholic Primary School (rated Good) and Slade Primary School (rated Outstanding) in Tonbridge itself. Or for Preps – there’s three excellent choices right on your doorstep that we have reviewed – Hilden Oaks Prep School & Nursery (3 month – 11 year olds), The Schools at Somerhill (2 – 13 year olds) or Hilden Grange School (3 – 13 years olds).
And for Secondary / Senior schools? When it comes to grammars, there’s Tonbridge Grammar School (TGS) or Weald of Kent Grammar School, both of which educate girls between the ages of 11 and 16, and girls and boys in the Sixth Form. For boys there’s The Judd School (which takes girls in Sixth Form). Also Hillview School for Girls is a great all-ability option, particularly for those with a love of performing arts.
Not forgetting of course, one of the leading boys’ boarding and day schools in the UK, Tonbridge School, which occupies a spectacular site of 150 acres right in the middle of town and is renowned for providing a world-class education. It has just over 800 boys, aged between 13 and 18, a strong community ethos and a vast programme of co-curricular opportunities.
BEST FOR HISTORY
The Normans chose Tonbridge as one of their fortifications to guard the road from Hastings to London. The motte and bailey castle has survived over 1000 years of Kings, Queens and wars and now stands as one of the finest remaining examples of its kind. Climb the ‘motte’ mound for fabulous views across the town or picnic on the ‘bailey’ lawn. Host to Festivals, open air performances and markets or, should you fancy it, you can even get married there.
BEST FUN ON THE RIVER
Now in it’s 10th year, 24 teams compete in head to head races, starting at the Watergate (the big bridge) on Tonbridge High Street. Free to spectators and combined with a Food & Drink Festival at the Racecourse ground, it’s a great fun day out with all proceeds to local charities. Paddles at the ready!